An Open Letter to California Representative Ted Lieu

Hey Homes, ‘sup? Did y’all know you was being played for a chump? Played by people with more agendas than congress.

Which brings me to your statement on Monsanto’s herbicide, RoundUp, and more specifically, its active ingredient, glyphosate.

You issued a press release on March 15, 2017.

“New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. We need to find out if Monsanto or the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public.”

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

Gilles-Éric Séralini holding a tumor-ridden rat

So Ted, you met behind closed doors with some folks from NGOs who said they are independent scientists, so you could get the down low on Monsanto and all. These “independent scientists,” no doubt, told you that glyphosate, after forty years of use with no one ever reporting any ill effects, had now turned up suppressed evidence that it caused all kinds of shit. No doubt, they showed you pictures of tumor-ridden rats.

I know I wasn’t there, but trust me, they blew smoke up your ass, Homes. They blew smoke so far up yo ass, that you be now jonesing for a cigarette.

How do I know that these “independent scientists” lied to you? They lied (the same kind of green ecology experts) to me about how pollution was getting worse (it wasn’t it was getting better) and stuff they are still going on about. And what these “independent scientists” didn’t tell you was a) The breed of rats used is subject to spontaneous tumor development. b) The control group is never shown. This is a big Red Flag. The control group, given the species, would also have had tumors. c) The study size was woefully inadequate. Beware small study sizes. Not enough rats were used for decent statistical analyses. d) The Séralini rat study was redacted due to these problems.

Do you have any idea how ill-informed this statement is: glyphosate is “linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” by IARC. You are too smart a guy to not know that correlation does not mean causation, but somehow, after forty years, these guys have “linked” it to NHL. How? Fucking smoke and mirrors, Ted. Smoke and mirrors. Oh, and lying their asses off, using real scientific research and claiming effects the polar opposite of what the research papers found. See what I wrote a few days before for more on this (…orse-rides-again/).

As an example, take a look at how pseudo-science works, I’ll link sales of organic to autism for you. Are they really linked? Of course not. Although affluent people who are more likely to buy organic food, will have more ability to have their children diagnosed for such ailments.

As I point out in my previous post, to get glyphosate into the 2a classification took a monumental effort to distort findings. As toxicologist Frank Schnell says, such papers are “designed to make your head hurt, so that you won’t hear that soft little voice of common sense in the back of your head whispering ‘this is all bullshit, isn’t it?.’”

So despite what you heard about glyphosate, despite what these independent experts with PhD in their titles told you, they don’t know the scientific process. They start, and end, with the hypothesis, that is their narrative.  If they don’t get the “right” answers, they tweak the data or simply lie. Nothing matters but the narrative.

Bullshit dressed up with sciency-sounding jargon is still just bullshit. Bullshit may be good for organic gardens but it is not something to base policy on.

Forgive me, I haven’t introduced myself. I am Norm.

Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith of canals in Venice, California

You don’t know me but I grew up in your district, in Venice, in fact. Though I graduated from Venice High (go you mighty Gondos!) before you were born and the neighborhoods have upscaled, it is still the progressive liberal area it was when I lived there. Old Abbot Kinney would never recognize the place now.

There weren’t going to be any forests left

In fact, I chose my career, in part, due to facts I learned from my liberal friends, that the coast redwoods were being made extinct by Weyerhauser, Georgia-Pacific, Louisiana-Pacific, and any other lumber company. The redwoods would disappear in a generation, according to the emerging ecology movement. I attended Santa Monica City College (to say I studied at SMCC would be stretching the truth) and heard all about the peril of the redwoods (and the earth) at the first Earth Day event.

The Four Horsemen were about to mess us up

Y’all might have read about it. The speakers said something like this: “Brothers and sisters the world careens toward a Malthusian catastrophe, the likes of which the world has never seen.” The high prophet of 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich summed it up for us: “The battle to feed all humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” We were accelerating toward the brink; the point of no return. We will see droughts and mass starvation; forests reduced to stumps, no oil, foul air, frozen earth [scratch that frozen bit, and put in scorched due to global warming instead] and polluted water.

As a result, Ted, I decided to be a forester to save the forests. Hey when you are in your teens, you can do anything. Also, more importantly, when you listen only to your tribe, you believe anything they say. After all, why would they they lie?

Do you know how many of their predictions came true or even close to true? None. Nearly fifty years after that first Earth Day, and literally nothing I heard was right. What did happen was exactly the opposite of what these experts predicted–and are still predicting–but unlike a broken clock they won’t be right even once. Johan Norberg shows here what really happened.


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Barkbook & Twigger? German Forester Claims Trees Have Social Networks

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Me, apparently treading on the Wood Wide Web

The Wood Wide Web is in the news.

A New York Times article tells of a German forester, Peter Wohlleben, who believes that trees communicate intimately. That they have social networks.

What? Barkbook? Twigger? SapChat? Pineterest?

Wohlleben wrote a best-selling book in Germany, “Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World.” According to the Amazon blurb, trees, “Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group.”

Uh huh. Oooookaaaay. AYFKM? Anthropomorphizing plants to explain a concept is one thing but this takes it to a whole new level of absurd.

In the Times article, he looks at a pair of tall old beech trees, he says, “These trees are friends. You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.”

“These trees are friends. You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.”

How about the fact that trees use light in photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates? This process happens in the leaves. Leaves that produce food for the tree stay, those that don’t produce food for the tree wither and die and eventually the branch falls away.

How about phototropism? Plants bend toward light because that is used to power photosynthesis that produces the plant’s food?

How about the two beech trees started as seedlings and vigorously competed for light, water, and nutrients and found what they needed in areas away from each other?

How about Occam’s Razor?  when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

As for the Wood Wide Web; basically, Wohlleben has offered up a mystical explanation for the result of evolution. Yes mycorrhizal fungi do help plant roots take in water and nutrients; they evolved to do so. Because plants collaborate and compete does not mean they planned anything or that they have a sentient purpose.

“All life on Earth is connected and related to each other,” because of evolution says Brian Richmond, curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  This connection happened through changes in individuals caused by changes in environment or need. Consider the ability of people to drink milk from other animals, people have this ability now because their ancestors herding animals and began drinking non-human milk. Some individuals tolerated this new source of nourishment better than others. They felt better and passed along this ability to their descendants.

The Wood Wide Web should be called the Woo Wide Web.


Frazer, Jennifer. “Dying Trees Can Send Food to Neighbors of Different Species.” Scientific American.

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Burned Policy

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves….” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2.

Still Playing With Fire

Coeur d'Alene National Forest, Idaho. Photo taken between 1909 and 1920. Photo Credit: Library of Congress.

Coeur d’Alene National Forest, Idaho. Photo taken between 1909 and 1920. Photo Credit: Library of Congress.

It is summer so wildfires are in the news, and this year’s Yarnell Hill and Rim Fires are partially used to hype man-caused global warming. Our fire problem has been a long time in the making. It did not happen overnight. We will not fix it overnight, perhaps we never will.

On August 15th 1979, I had just started my first permanent position with Cal Fire. On that day a four-man crew from Nipomo Forest Fire Station responded to the Spanish Ranch Fire about thirty miles east of Santa Maria. Three of the Nipomo crew (Captain Ed Marty, and firefighters Ron Lorant and Steve Manley) died on the fireline that day. Firefighter Scott Cox succumbed to his burns 202 days later.

Later in my career, I taught at Cal Fire’s Fire Academy. We have there a list of firefighters who died in the line of duty. This year, nineteen more names were added to the list of fallen comrades. The Yarnell Fire joins such infamous fires as Mann Gulch, Inaja, Loop, Rattlesnake, South Canyon, and others. The stories of how our comrades died at these fires are part of our lore.

I can comment on fire policy since I have responded to wildland fires and helped in quelling them, and I taught fire modeling in the Advanced Wildland Fire Behavior course as part of a cadre of instructors during the 1990s.


Our present fire policy began in 1910 with the “Big Burn,” a fire that killed at least 85 people and burned more than 4,700 square miles in Idaho and Montana. It is the second largest fire in U.S. History (the Peshtigo Fire was 5900 square miles and killed 1,500), and 12 times bigger than the Rim Fire which, as of this writing, is nearly 400 square miles.

On August 10, 1910, the region was in the midst of a severe drought when fires broke out and were reported as spreading rapidly on the Blackfeet, Cabinet, Clearwater, Flathead, Kaniksu, and Lolo National Forests. Over time they merged. On the 20th high winds caused a “blow up.” The Forest History Society says “that towns and timber alike perished, heroes were made, legends were born, and history changed forever.” They quote Forester Edward G. Stahl as recalling, “that flames hundreds of feet high were ‘fanned by a tornadic wind so violent that the flames flattened out ahead, swooping to earth in great darting curves, truly a veritable red demon from hell.’”

“[F[lames hundreds of feet high were ‘fanned by a tornadic wind so violent that the flames flattened out ahead, swooping to earth in great darting curves, truly a veritable red demon from hell.’” – Forester Edward G. Stahl recalling the Big Burn

Arizona State University Professor Stephen Pyne is a recognized expert on wildfire; in 2001 he spoke of the lessons of the Big Burn. “The next three chief foresters [of the Forest Service] – William Greeley, Robert Stuart, and Ferdinand Augustus Silcox – were all personally on the scene of the fires, had counted its costs, buried its dead…Silcox wrote [toward the end of 1910] that the lesson of the fires was that they were wholly preventable. All it took was more money, more men, more trails, more will.”

The year 1910 saw the triumph of that management philosophy over another. It should surprise no one that the rancorous debate occurred due to, in the words of Pyne, “politics, personalities, and professional pride.”

The debate’s loser, Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger argued for what was known as “The Indian Way.” Pyne put Ballinger’s argument this way, it was better to have “fires of choice than fires of chance” because “light burning by the American Indian, after all, was what had created the forests for which everyone [in 1910] now lusted.”

The winner, Gifford Pinchot, the Father of the Forest Service, believed as Silcox did. Indeed most foresters of the day believed that fire had no place in the forest. In their opinion, using fire was anti-conservation. Patrolling, putting out fires, and educating people to be careful was the way of the future.

By 1935, Silcox (now Forest Service Chief) conceded that their policy to put out all fires by 10 a.m. had left national forest lands in worse shape than they had been a generation before. The Society of American Foresters publicly announced that fire was required for certain species, most notably longleaf pine.

To this day, fire has not been reintroduced to any great extent. Fires normally clear away undergrowth and widen space between trees. Without it, those fuels build up. Fire probably will never be used in a meaningful way to create wildland landscapes that resist major fires. For one thing, people such as me now live in what is called the Wildland-Urban Interface, making fire’s use more difficult. For another, there are rules and regulations regarding air and water quality that blunt fire’s use.

Clearing and thinning of trees and undergrowth to remove the “fire ladder”—plants and woody debris that can allow fire to climb into the tops of trees—and widen spacing between trees would help reduce these catastrophic wildfires. But, that probably will not happen due to distaste for logging of any sort.

As sickening as it may sound, there may be nothing you and I can do except prepare for the inevitable. At the family level, clear flammable vegetation, mow down grass, and have an evacuation plan and meeting place decided on. Keep a bag with toiletries, clothes, and cash ready in case you are told to leave (there is a preparedness checklist at The South Lake County Fire Safe Council has good suggestions on preparedness. At the county level, we have a Community Wildfire Protection Plan that assessed our risks. Not surprisingly, much of the plan focuses on Fire Safe planning for new developments. Many of our existing roads and driveways do not meet the minimal requirements. My plan, in case of a major fire, is to grab my wife and our cat and walk into the lake; our road, as many in Lake County, is without an outlet and too narrow to accommodate incoming fire equipment and outgoing cars.

The fault for catastrophic wildfires, lies not in our global warming ‘stars,’ but in our politics.

Fires 1960-2012

Acres burned due to wildland fires, 1960-2012. Source: National Interacency Fire Center



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